Sam Charles

Communications Manager

School of Engineering
Office: EME3251
Phone: 250.807.8136


Sam started at the Okanagan campus of the University of British in 2013 as a Senior Media Production Specialist with UBC Studios Okanagan.  After four years in that role, he transitioned into the Communications Manager role with the School of Engineering.

At the School of Engineering, he is responsible for developing strategic communication materials that highlight the innovative research and experiential learning on the Okanagan campus.  Sam is energized by telling the endlessly inspiring stories of the School’s researchers, students and staff.

With over twenty years of experience in communications, film, television and radio production, Sam is a seasoned professional communicator focused on generating dynamic and engaging content.

Sam has represented Canada three-times at Summer World University Games as Team Canada’s videographer documenting the Games for international audiences.  On Friday nights during the varsity season, he is the play-by-play voice (and technical advisor) for UBC Okanagan Heat basketball and volleyball webcasts on


Integrated strategic communications including social media; Develop, design, and maintain communications content; Media relations; Issues Management; Develop and prepare faculty awards nominations


Scientists predict that there is a 30% chance that British Columbia will experience a major earthquake in the next 50 years. That major seismic event has the potential to register higher than magnitude 9.0. Only five earthquakes have been recorded over 9.0 according to the US Geological Society, and all but one were located in densely populated areas. The 2011 Great Tohoku Earthquake in Japan resulted in more than 15-thousand fatalities and over $309B in economic loss including damage to hundreds-of-thousands of buildings, thousands of roads, and over fifty bridges.

In an effort to address the possibility of a catastrophic seismic event in BC, and its ensuing infrastructure impact, researcher Shahria Alam and his team from the School of Engineering’s Applied Laboratory for Advanced Materials and Structures (ALAMS) have teamed up with Spannovation Consulting Limited from BC’s Lower Mainland. Alam, who is a Professor and Principal’s Research Chair in Resilient and Green Infrastructure, will spend the next six years evaluating and predicting the performance of a variety of existing and future bridges. He and his team will also design new technology to retrofit these bridges, and strengthen new bridges.

“Our research focus is to investigate single-span bridges, which make up a third of the bridges in BC, but are also the most susceptible to damage from earthquakes,” explains Alam. “Better understanding factors such as abutments, foundation, and soil-foundation interaction are pivotal to designing technology to safeguard existing and new bridges in our province.”

According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada overall loss after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake in BC is estimated to be almost $75B while a 7.1-magnitude earthquake in the Quebec City-Montreal-Ottawa corridor would cause a $61B loss. Alam says it is clear that Canada’s bridge infrastructure is vulnerable. “It is imperative to seek new approaches for seismic analysis and design of bridges, and that’s why we are collaborating with Spannovation.”

Spannovation is a bridge and seismic engineering consultancy that specializes in developing retrofit and rehabilitation strategies through seismic analysis including response spectrum, push-over and time history analyses.

The multi-phase project will commence later this summer with analysis and modelling of different bridge structures across the province in conjunction with the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. The findings will then be used to create a robust predictive modelling program that can help evaluate existing bridges and future bridge designs.

The researchers will also investigate how multi-span bridges respond to non-uniform ground movement. Alam sees this phase as one of the really fascinating components of the research. “Since seismic wave behaviour isn’t always consistent, we will analyze how the individual parts of the bridge respond structurally through displacement and strain responses in order to develop design guidelines and recommendations.”

The project will investigate these scenarios and find solutions using advanced analysis tools such as Elastic Dynamic Analysis (EDA), Inelastic Static Pushover Analysis (ISPA), nonlinear time history analysis, and incremental dynamic analysis (IDA). The findings will help advance the Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code.

The research is funded by the Mitacs Accelerate Grant cluster, and is expected to train more than 30 interns in the next six years.


Two teams comprising of School of Engineering student-led projects finish in the top 2 at the 2021 AquaHacking Challenge – Western Canada Finale.

Read the Western Canada AquaHcking Challenge 2021 News Release

Both teams originated from last year’s APSC 169 Fundamentals of Sustainable Engineering Design, and were both recipients of funding from the School’s inaugural Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Impact Fund. The fund helps student-led start-ups to solve real-world problems.

The SIP Project, a mobile filtration station in the form of a gravity filter backpack was awarded the top prize at the 2021 AquaHacking Challenge. The primarily second-year team includes Yosamin Esanullah, Elena Wood (third-year, electrical), Mana Tokuni, Yamen Shaheb, and Sarah Adelaja. Using carbon and membrane micron filters, the team has designed a portable filtration system that fits in a backpack, and is designed to last up to 128 weeks. It is a solution ideally built for remote communities to address drinking water contamination.

As the 1st place team, SIP Project receives $20-thousand in funding, a spot in a local start-up incubator, credits for legal services from Lavery Lawyers, and are eligible for additional funding through Mitacs.

Another APSC 169 team, Eledigm, placed second in the competition. The team consists of second-year engineering students Sydney Strocen, Mikhail Ignatyev, Alex Wiggins, Sam Keeble, and Emilia Dyck developed a water filtration system that removes dirt, biomaterials, and foreign objects from the water supply while the cistern is being refilled and idle. The system is intended for Indigenous communities. They receive $15-thousand in funding along with other supports highlighted above.

Learn more about the AquaHacking Challenge at

School of Engineering researcher among international collaboration to address extreme heat events in urban environments.

Associate Professor Joshua Brinkerhoff is among an international group of over 25 researchers from across the globe who were recently awarded nearly $6-million in funding to promote healthy and resilient cities during high-temperature events. Brinkerhoff joins researchers from Hong Kong Polytechnical University, Hong Kong University., City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, University of Sydney, Waseda University, Tongji University, Concordia, UC Berkeley, and the National University of Singapore.

“Increasingly we are seeing the dire consequences of rising temperatures across the globe,” says Brinkerhoff. “Extreme heat events can be especially harmful in large, dense cities. This new collaboration will lay the foundation for microclimate hubs within high-density urban environments.”

Through advanced computational modelling and simulation, the researchers will model wind, heat, moisture, thermal and wind comfort to create outdoor localized comfort hubs. Brinkerhoff describes these hubs as specially-designed, high-tech parks. “Together, we are looking to design spaces that combine vegetation, water, surface materials and structures to create a comfortable sanctuary inside urban areas. These comfort hubs will be sustainable, rooted in an in-depth understanding of how the built environment interacts with the local climate.”

Although his main research uses massive computer simulations to understand turbulent fluid flows in industrial processes, Brinkerhoff and his team at the UBC Okanagan Computation Fluid Dynamics Lab are beginning to focus on similar processes occurring in the atmosphere.

“This research combines several of my research interests including large-scale numerical simulations, turbulence, and wind and thermal modelling.”

According to the project’s proposal document, “The ultimate aim of the research is to bring the state-of-the-art of computing power into conventional architectural design and planning practice to address contemporary and future urban livability and sustainability issues, particularly in the context of a rapidly changing climate.”

The research is made possible through Hong Kong’s Research Grants Council Collaborative Research Fund which is intended for research groups in University Grants Committee-funded universities to engage in collaborative research across disciplines and across universities. The project is already underway, and will run through 2022.





The four teams that received funding from the inaugural Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Impact (IEI) Fund have been steadily making progress through the spring and summer.

Each team received funding to develop a project with potential to make a significant real-world impact. The projects range from tools to improve water quality in Indigenous communities to increasing access to student wellness resources, and combating auto theft.

The Eledigm team is working with faculty mentor Dr. Ray Taheri to further develop a concept they first presented in APSC 169 Fundamentals of Sustainable Engineering Design. Their WaterSafe product is an attachment that connects to a cistern, and prevents contaminants from entering the water supply.

Over the past few months, they have been undertaking extensive consultation with rural communities to identify additional needs of their potential markets, created and tested a new prototype, and expanded their social media presence including building a website.

“We are currently making great progress and we have already established a website, game plan for contacting customers/gathering data, and have a CAD model of our product,” says team member Sydney Strocen. “Our next steps will be moving towards a functional prototype as well as building a distribution network for our product.”

Working together to build a comprehensive resource platform and building relationships with customers has been the focus of the past few months for the Atlas App team. Already the team has developed a functional website, and wellness check-in with beta testing amongst UBC Okanagan students.

According to team member Erika Pineo, the biggest challenge has been time management and communication.  “With everyone on our team working full time, it took us some time to establish effective communication methods.” The team also welcomed some additional team members with experience in coding and software development. They have been helped by their faculty mentor Dr. Alon Eisenstein who has provided resources and insights into using lean prototyping techniques and beta-testing.

“The idea for Atlas has been floating around with our team members since early 2019, and this funding has given us the support and structure needed to bring it to life,” says Pineo. “We know the benefits and impact this app can have are endless, and we are excited to continue developing the company.”

Supplier delays have slowed progress a bit for Team Cloudtrac. The theft prevention GPS tracker continues to update their software, and credit the IEI funding for maintaining the project’s momentum. “We’ve been working on this project for the past four years between classes and jobs but now, with this funding and support from our faculty mentor Dr. Kenneth Chau, we are able to focus on building the important business side of things,” says Connor Scott, one of the members of Cloudtrac.

The funding has enabled the team to purchased software licenses, servers, and look after other business expenses while establishing five strategic local business partners that are helping build a customer base in the Okanagan.

The 2021 IEI Fund recipients included a fourth team that received $5,000 to develop a mobile filtration backpack (initially designed in APSC 169). The SIP backpack team has advanced to the Finals of the National Aquahacking Challenge, and received additional funding and training through bursaries, a company accelerator called Foresight, and a leadership bootcamp from Waterluition.

“Market research has shifted our focus to humanitarian need, disaster relief, and emergency response,” explains team member Yosamin Esanullah, “as a result, the design has changed dramatically, and continue to evolve as we begin to prototype and experiment.” The team points to the support provided by their mentor Dr. Taheri, and others, who have helped shape this transition.

Over the past few months, the SIP team has been conducting market research, developing an online presence, and prototyping. Esanullah says the focus continues to be getting a clearer vision of what the market wants. “We are continuing to form connections with NGOs, humanitarian organizations, outdoor retailers that are interested in our product to encourage investment into its development.”

“These teams have really demonstrated a drive to take their projects to the next level, and we are thrilled to see them all advancing over the summer,” says Chau, who oversaw the adjudication process. “Their success to date is really an indication that this type of funding can truly make a difference in propelling a good idea into an impactful reality.”

Further to that point, the IEI Funding is helping to foster an ecosystem where students can immerse themselves in work-integrate learning. The teams continue to work on their projects, and will present a detailed progress report during a public presentation in the Fall.

For more information about the Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Impact Fund visit


New fourth-year course bridges data mining and machine learning with control systems to innovate manufacturing production facilities.

One of the newest courses at the School of Engineering launches in September, and will introduce students to the latest in industrial standards, and research challenges such as process monitoring and human-machine interaction through practical case studies.

“We’ve developed a course that will truly put students at the cutting-edge of manufacturing,” explains Ahmad Al-Dabbagh, an assistant professor and principal’s research chair in control systems. “By combining data analytics with control systems within a state-of-the-art manufacturing lab, MANF 465 students have an opportunity to see where digital entreprise is heading in the future.”

Digital Enterprise, MANF 465, is a fourth-year design elective, industry-oriented, project-based manufacturing engineering course. It covers systems integration and data analytics in industrial automation systems. Students will be introduced to different hardware, software and communication networks used in modern production facilities, and will use those tools to design data-driven solutions.

“Data generated within a digital enterprise, and modern manufacturing operations, can be very useful,” says Al-Dabbagh. “Students in MANF 465 will not only learn how to use it, but they will test their findings within laboratory-scale experimental platforms that mimic full-scale production lines.”

Over the last year, UBC Okanagan has been building one of the comprehensive advanced manufacturing training labs in the country according to Manufacturing Engineering Associate Director Homayoun Najjaran. “When our Manufacturing Engineering students return to campus in September, most of their courses (such as MANF 465) will take place in the new NC3-Festo National Coalition of Certification Centres Manufacturing Lab.”

The new lab offers automated platforms that has a variety of sensors and actuators, programmable logic controllers, human machine interfaces, manufacturing execution systems, communication networks, and simulation software.

The first graduating cohort of Manufacturing Engineering will be entering their final year of studies in September, and for many of these students this new course is an important step towards employment.

“The on-going evolution of Industry 4.0 requires engineers that are creative in finding solutions to practical problems with available resources,” says Al-Dabbagh. “In MANF 465, students will use operational data to improve engineering processes.”

Al-Dabbagh sees MANF 465 as an excellent gateway for Manufacturing Engineering students as they prepare to enter the workforce. “Courses like MANF 465 provide the tools and expertise to our students to succeed in today’s manufacturing sector.”

The School of Engineering welcomes four new faculty on July 1. The new research faculty bring a wealth of experience in digital health, smart structures, smart transportation, and microbial ecosystems.

“Not only do our new faculty bring an impressive breadth of research that complements our existing research clusters, but they bring a passion for innovation and changing our world for the better,” says School of Engineering Executive Associate Dean Rehan Sadiq.

Dr. Lisa Tobber, has been appointed a UBC Okanagan Principal Research Chair (PRC – Tier 2) for Women in Engineering. She is an expert in developing innovative structural systems for tall buildings that can withstand catastrophic events. Dr. Tobber uses advanced numerical simulations and large-scale experimental testing to help design resilient, sustainable, and smart cities. She is a UBC Civil Engineering alumna.

In her role as PRC, Dr. Tobber will develop initiatives for engaging and retaining female students through building positive and effective relationships in engineering pedagogical and research contexts. Furthermore, she will engage in improving training of both female engineering students and female practicing engineers.

Dr. Christopher Collier joins UBC Okanagan from the University of Guelph, where he began as an assistant professor of Biomedical Engineering in 2016. At the University of Guelph, he established the Collier Research Group through funding from numerous sources including NSERC and CFI. The Collier Research Group has also moved to UBC Okanagan, bringing a research program on hyperspectral imaging, terahertz technologies, microsystems, agri-food applications, and optofluidic technologies. Dr. Collier is an alumnus of the UBC Okanagan Electrical Engineering BASc and PhD programs.

During the pandemic, Dr. Collier’s research efforts were largely focused on lab-on-a-chip systems. His agri-food microfluidic devices were featured as the cover article for the journal Electrophoresis, and his optical annealing techniques can be applied for rapid polymerase chain reaction, as is used in the detection of COVID-19.

Within anaerobic digester environments, Dr. Alyse Hawley’s research explores microbial metabolic interactions and the roles of micro-diversity (diversity within a species) and viruses that infect microbes using the tools of multi-omics (DNA, RNA and protein sequencing). Dr. Hawley uses big data to uncover ways to better understand the inner workings of natural and engineered microbial ecosystem (such as viruses). She recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Calgary.

Dr. Suliman Gargoum develops smart sensing technology for advanced road safety analytics and informed design and management of transportation infrastructure. A former Chief Research Officer at Nektar Inc., Dr. Gargoum’s research supports transportation infrastructure projects related to digitalization, virtual transportation management, and automated LiDAR data processing. Dr. Gargoum completed his PhD at the University of Alberta.

“We are very excited to welcome our new faculty, and uncover new collaborations to seek out solutions to pressing challenges facing our community and industry partners,” says Lukas Bichler, School of Engineering Director pro tem. “They join a Faculty that continues to grow and broaden its reach in the world of engineering research and education.

All four members of faculty start July 1st as assistant professors in their respective programs.

Thank you for taking the time to explore the Indigenous context, as it relates to the School of Engineering, with us (the School’s Indigenous Caucus) this month. UBC Okanagan and the School of Engineering wish to acknowledge that the land on which the campus is situated is part of the unceded territory of the Syilx (Okanagan) Peoples. The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) was formed in 1981 as the inaugural First Nations government in the Okanagan which represents the 8 member communities: Okanagan Indian Band, Upper Nicola Band, Westbank First Nation, Penticton Indian Band, Osoyoos Indian Band, Lower and Upper Similkameen Indian Bands, and the Colville Confederated Tribes.

British Columbia and the Okanagan have an evolving relationship with First Nations. See, for example, the recent op-ed from Westbank First Nation Chief Christopher Derickson. Chief Derickson suggests that we start our journey towards reconciliation through “reflect(ing) on our present day realities.” Hopefully, our letters this month have led you to reflect and contemplate how you can contribute to reconciliation.

Don’t let the end of Indigenous Peoples Heritage Month stop you from continuing to learn more about the history and current circumstances related to Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Find ways to incorporate Indigenous themes into your day-to-day, whether that be in studying, teaching, or working. Consider reviewing the Aboriginal Peoples Survey to learn more about the social and economic conditions of Indigenous Peoples across Canada.

Together, all of us can play a role in moving towards reconciliation.

Drs. Benoit and Foulds


Drs. Collier and Tobber (incoming engineering faculty for July 2021)

School of Engineering Indigenous Caucus

Less than a week before National Indigenous Peoples Day, the Federal Government passed new legislation aimed at aligning Canada’s laws with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was adopted by the General Assembly in 2007. 144 countries voted in favour, 4 voted against and 11 abstained. The Declaration established a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of Indigenous peoples around the world. In 2016, Canada officially expressed support for the spirit of the declaration by adopting and promising to implement the declaration fully (Canada did not formally ratify the document). The Province of British Columbia passed legislation to implement the UN Declaration in 2019.

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission highlighted UNDRIP as it relates to the rights of Indigenous Peoples to maintain, control, identify, and protect their cultural heritage, and to the responsibility of Canada’s federal government to integrate Indigenous heritage into their policies and practices.

From the perspective of the School of Engineering Indigenous Caucus, UNDRIP is an important document and serves as a framework towards reconciliation. As an engineer, or an engineer in training, understanding the context of the relationship between Canada and Indigenous Peoples provides a more holistic perspective that can improve interactions and approaches when it comes to collaborations with Indigenous groups.

Here are additional UNDRIP and BC’s DRIPA resources:

This month, we will continue to share topics and resources as we open a dialogue about reconciliation, and the role we all play in this process. We welcome your participation and input.

Kind regards,

Drs. Benoit and Foulds


Drs. Collier and Tobber (incoming engineering faculty for July 2021)

School of Engineering Indigenous Caucus



Canada prides itself on being a just and accepting society, but off on the periphery of our society is a dark shadow. News reports over the past few weeks have focused on the discovery of child remains at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, and in the midst of that news, the Federal government responded to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls with their “Federal Pathway” report. Within the report, the government laid out a holistic approach to end violence directed towards Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA. The plan calls for more spending to promote Indigenous language and culture plus improvements to infrastructure, health, and policing in Indigenous communities.

As the UBC Okanagan Engineering Indigenous Caucus, we think it is important to build awareness about these tough subjects, and maintain a dialogue to uncover what we can do as engineers, and aspiring engineers, to seek out reconciliation while ending a negative cycle.

Whether it is residential schools or missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, this is all transpiring in recent history. “Reclaiming Power and Place” was the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Published in 2019, the report includes the voices of over 2,380 family members, survivors of violence, experts, and Knowledge Keepers. The Inquiry’s Commissioner Michèle Audette puts the onus on all Canadians to address the over-arching issue of keep Indigenous women and girls safe. “This is not just a job for governments and politicians. It is incumbent on all Canadians to hold our leaders to account (and dismantle the structures of colonialism within Canada society).” The report outlines specific issues such as language barriers, health and social services provided by religious congregations and interaction with Indigenous and provincial police forces. This content is very powerful, and some people may require support after watching them. If so, here are some support resources through UBC:

Every year in June, you may notice red dresses on hangers around Kelowna and the Okanagan campus. The annual Red Dress campaign is intended to raise awareness on the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada. We direct you to the following resources to learn more about this campaign:

Here are some other resources available:

One of the biggest steps we can take is talking about these tough subjects. By taking part in this dialogue we can find solutions. That’s what we, as engineers, do. We uncover solutions to the seemingly impossible.

During this month, we will continue to share topics and resources as we open a dialogue about reconciliation, and the role we all play in this process. We welcome your participation and input.

Kind regards,

Drs. Benoit and Foulds


Drs. Collier and Tobber (incoming engineering faculty for July 2021)

School of Engineering Indigenous Caucus

With the heartbreaking news from Kamloops earlier this month about the discovery of 215 children found buried at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, the UBC Okanagan Engineering Indigenous Caucus and our allies the EDI advisors met this past week to discuss how we can help our community better understand and process this tragic news.

The work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has made the history of residential schools in Canada widely known. Before the TRC, few Canadians learned about how Indigenous children were taken from their families and communities, and forced by law to attend residential schools designed to strip them of their culture. This is not distant history, and there are many living victims in every indigenous community.  We first encourage you to learn about the Residential School System in Canada.

The stories of these children are difficult to hear, but they are important.  We encourage you to watch some of these stories to better gain insight into the history of Canada, and its relationship with Indigenous Peoples. This content is very powerful, and some people may require support after watching it. If so, here are some support resources through UBC:

June is Indigenous Peoples History Month, and is a time for us all (regardless of our background) to reflect on the history of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous Peoples.

Many resources are available about the history of residential schools in Canada, and the Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Report and Recommendations, including the following:

History needs to be remembered in order for us to take steps towards reconciliation, and move our country to match its aspirations. It is the same foundational principle for the discipline of engineering. As engineers we learn from our mistakes and grow. Together, we can work towards a lasting and impactful change.

During the month of June, we will continue to share topics and resources as we open a dialogue about reconciliation, and the role we all play in this process. We welcome your participation and input.

Thank you for taking the time to participate in this.

Kind regards,

Drs. Benoit and Foulds


Drs. Collier and Tobber (incoming engineering faculty for July 2021)

School of Engineering Indigenous Caucus